Wednesday, December 14, 2011

God has sent away my distractions. I need stillness, time to think, time to listen.

 My job is ending. My writing degree is finished.

There is a crossroad here... and what is life?

Is life what I am expected to do? Is life responsible? Is life the most obvious choice?

Or is life to be governed by chances, by risks, by the improbable?

God has brought opportunity to me. So much opportunity! The difficulty is choosing which one to take. When you ask for something, expect your cup to spill over...

And what would Christ say? Follow me.

Monday, November 21, 2011

I really enjoy being patient. I like the calmness that comes over my heart. I like exercising a sense of peace.

It is healthy to nurture our ability to wait. Being able to wait for someone to understand, wait for a behavior to change, wait for good timing.

I like being patient because I feel like I am serving others. I suppose, in this way, patience is love. When I am tutoring a challenging student and I need to be extra patient, I find a great satisfaction in it, because I am doing it for someone else.

Maybe it is more difficult to be patient when we are selfish. How can we wait for others if we put ourselves first?


Monday, November 7, 2011

Death of Self

“There was a day when I died; died to self, my opinions, preferences, tastes and will; died to the world, its approval or censure; died to the approval or blame even of my brethren or friends; and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God." ~ George Mueller

This is not a statement to make lightly.

Mueller speaks of the death of the self. This comes through intense suffering. We don't wake up one day and simply "die to self" because we "want" to.... The self never wants to die.... That is why its death is so painful, why we lose so much over the course of our lives, why it's so hard to let go.

Faith is a constant practice. It must be maintained through a lifetime, just like a good diet or exercise. The death of self might occur... but that doesn't mean it can't slip in again. It is a narrow path.

My prayer when I was younger was for God to let me suffer so others didn't have to. Now I pray for the strength to survive; the strength to shoulder my own suffering, never mind that of my neighbor. Life is a lot harder as an adult than as a child; the faith that was so easy to maintain when I was young and sheltered is now challenged almost daily. It is not challenged by thought, but by action -- am I generous enough, patient enough, caring enough to my fellow man? Or am I becoming like everyone else, terrified, focused only on survival, too tired and frustrated to pay attention. This is a new faith I am learning; a faith that must come from the inside, no matter what the circumstances. A faith that must extend to include others; to embrace others as they are, without demanding change or perfection. God didn't make us to be perfect, but He did make us to love.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

And again, you have heard me, and answered.

Thank you, God, for watching out for my family.

A moment of truth: that I want to die for them, everyone. Does that make sense? That in the deepest core of my heart is this eager yearning to sacrifice, to place myself upon an altar. God, I want to give all of myself to you, to them. In some ways, I suppose I already have -- it was an even trade, was it not? My heart for Yours?

I am in love now, I suppose, with a man. We are together; he is a blessing, and people are not made to be alone. But even love distracts from this burning desire in my heart. It is not something that I could ever share, nor have I ever shared, with anyone else. It is my deepest secret, this yearning desire to sacrifice my life for the world. I've never been in this place before, where a relationship is a cold ember compared to the love between me and God. I do not need anyone, though I am happy to share my day with someone else. I am happier now, I feel the ability to move forward, even if I am a different person than I was before. I am still familiarizing myself with all of the changes, all of the ways I have grown, and the spikes and slivers where I am still the same. I am more of myself. I am a new self? I am no one.

With God, I am whole. I am empty, and I am whole. It becomes a duality, it blurs, it is one thing, wholeness and emptiness, like a cup full of light, weightless, filled to the brim. And in love now with a man, I can see the difference, I can recognize God's love as a giving love, a selfless love, unconditional. When we fall in love, infatuation, it is a taking love, a judging love, an evaluating, selfish thing. Love evolves, but this is how we begin, not knowing the difference between taking love and giving love. I see the challenge of marriage: to transform the selfish to the selfless; to understand ourselves and both separate and entwined. It is the journey of the heart; the evolution of the soul. God, you are brilliant. Through our need for one another, we come to know You, even if we do not realize Your work.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Love Letters VI

And where are You, but in my very thoughts and mind?

You are my heart, when it is quiet in prayer.

You are the time I spend on the grass, sitting and watching all that moves around me; never a moment devoid of wonder, when one looks and sees the Spirit.

And in dreams, where I have seen Your art drawn for me, symbols on bleeding hands....

And waking, when I hear your voice the strongest, sweet in the morning, when all is placid as the unbroken surface of a lake... What is Your music, Lord? This endless sound, it is Your name, over and over in my heart, Your name....

And when we sit and write, we are never alone. When we speak and whisper, when I confide to you my dreams and hopes, and laugh, because you are the one who planted them, so of course you must know, but still I must confess, because the heart is treacherous steep....

But God, do I not already know? And though worldly things slip by me, cunning wisdom, sleek words and deft hands... do I not stand by the bed of a dying man, and feel his seconds draining, feel Your peace in the room, and know exactly where he goes? I am blind, but not to Your work, Lord.

And you whisper things, and I hear them.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Please God, I know your miracles, and I see your blessings in the lives of those I love, even those who remain distant from you.

Please God, hear my sincere prayers. Please God, save them, deliver them from their struggles. Let rain your blessings.

I do not believe there is punishment in the Kingdom of Heaven. No, there is only change, and change, though we do not always like it, is the greatest evidence of God's design.

God, please deliver those I love from the evil of their own imperfections. Please God, protect them from the sins of others, from selfish intentions and honest mistakes. Please God, forgive them on my grace, because they do not know you, and it is not their fault. Please God, be a Father to them as You are to me, because that is my humble request. Show them Your unconditional love. Save them.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Confessions IV

God, it is all so hard, you make me want to hide in your walls, under your bench, and never crawl out again.

I am burying myself in your fields, Lord.

It isn't healthy to smother ourselves, but sometimes that's all we can do. Sitting still is too painful, and when we are still, we feel all of the motion inside of us, the unending surges of grief and hope, of longing and despair, frustration as we try to understand ourselves and why we feel like we are drowning.

But we are drowning with You, Lord. You made this ocean.

Oh Lord of my Heart -- why bring me to my knees when I am already upon them in prayer?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

How to See God (cont.)

The reason why most people have difficulty seeing God is because they don't have the right perspective.

First -- if you are looking for God, do you really know what you are looking for?

Are you looking for a man? A woman?

Are you looking for love? For continuity? For a profound experience?

Are you looking for a sense of peace and stability in your life?

When you say "God," what do you really mean?

We talk about God all the time at Church and with other believers, but how often do we stop and really think about our perception of God? Is God a King to you? Is He a separate entity hovering somewhere in space or another dimension? Is He something abstract, a word, or a sense of meaning that you are lacking from your life? If you are looking for God, where are you looking, and what are you focusing on? 

These are extremely important questions to consider if you are looking for God. Change what you are looking for, and you might just see it.

Here is a simple way to know God:

Pray.

And watch.

And keep your eyes open.

Remember: God is not something that you control. You cannot "force God to show Himself," as though you were herding a deer into an open meadow. God has His own timing and way of doing things. Do not look for an angel in the clouds or an unexplained envelope of money in your mailbox. God is right in front of you, but this is not how to see Him.

Instead, be patient. Pray, and watch for opportunity. Look for coincidence in the world around you. It is difficult for the mind to understand, but God is the world, God is your heart, and when you begin praying/communicating with God, you begin moving by His timing, then His blessings and bounty begin to fill your life by otherwise ordinary means. No, you will not receive an unexplained envelope of cash in your mailbox... but suddenly you might receive a raise at work. Stop looking for God in the clouds. We are already living inside of the miracle. Watch how it works around you.

Seeing God has nothing to do with where you look. It is the eyes you see with. God is all around you, all the time, but we do not see Him because we are not "wearing the right glasses." To see God, we must change our internal perspective. We must believe in Him and trust that, if we ask, He will make Himself known to us. And then, when coincidences begin to happen, we must not close our eyes. It can be terrifying at first, seeing God work in our lives. It is strange and exhilarating, suddenly feeling as though the world is moving to accommodate for us. But do not turn away. Eventually God will be more than coincidence, and you will know His Presence in everything, and then you will see God and Life for what it really is.



Friday, August 26, 2011

How to See God


God is so big, how else is He supposed to communicate with us, except through coincidence?

Case and Point: I recently went camping in the Sequoias with four friends and an old RV. I prayed several days before the camping trip that God bless the trip and let it be a rejuvenating experience for everyone. I prayed all week, because I was nervous about the trip and really wanted it to go well.

The morning that we left for the trip, an old man just happened to be walking outside of my house. I greeted him and we chatted briefly about the RV and my trip. When he heard that I was going to the redwood trees, he said, "I love it up in the Sequoias. Angels made them, you know. They're a blessing on earth. Do you study the Bible, by any chance?" He then invited me to a Bible study that he holds at his house every Monday night.

I thought it was a strange coincidence that I would meet someone who spoke so openly about God on the very morning that I was leaving on my trip.

Sadly, it seemed that everything that could go wrong, did go wrong on the first day of the camping trip. The RV broke down 3 times on the road to the Sequoias. A 4-hour drive turned into an overnight extravaganza, "camping" on the side of the road halfway up a mountain when the RV finally died at 1am. Despite all of the terrible things that could have happened, we were able to keep the RV running, and even more importantly, everyone stayed in high spirits. We made it to our camp ground and found ourselves stunned by how intensely beautiful the camp site was. We spent the next four days hiking, eating, and lazing around in the outdoors. When we finally left, everyone gushed about how perfect and wonderful the camping trip was, and how they couldn't wait to do it again.

Did God stop the RV from breaking down? No.

Did God work in our hearts so that, even when everything went wrong, we stayed in good spirits and still had a great time? Yes. Exactly.

And how did I know that the camping trip would be perfect? Because on the morning that we left, God sent one of His workers to my house to hint at His presence. God sent me a coincidence. Through the presence of another believer, I knew that my prayers had been answered, and that God's joy would be with us in the sequoias. 

This is how God speaks to us, and this is how we begin to see Him... not in the wonder of His creations, such as the redwood trees... but as an incidental meeting, a crossing of paths, between two people who have the Spirit in their hearts. The old man may not have said it directly, but his presence confirmed the truth -- that God heard me, that God answered, and that God wants me to know He's here.

But the greatest of these is love....

"1 If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast,[b] but do not have love, I gain nothing. 

 4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. 

 8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 

 13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."


I understand what Paul is saying when he speaks of love. My honest thoughts are that I have always understood the importance of love in faith, even though I am not perfect and I do not always act out of love. When I found God, it was Love that made itself known to me; pure and intense Love that cannot be fully described or understood. God has always made Himself known to me as Love, so when Paul talks about love, and about "knowing in part and knowing fully," I understand exactly what he means.


The love we experience within our families and in relationships is not the same Love that God is. They should really be two separate words. It is as Paul said... the love we have on earth is only "in part," it is incomplete, imperfect, soiled by selfishness and neediness, tainted by the fear of loss and our own insecurities. God's Love surpasses this so completely that it must be named something else. It is like comparing a lump of coal to a diamond, or a pine cone to a redwood tree. God's Love is perfect. God's Love is so complete that it created Life. God's Love created you.


And when we act and pray with God's Love in our hearts, miracles happen, because God's Love is Life.



Sunday, August 14, 2011

Leading by Example

Actions speak louder than words.

I have found much more success in changing the hearts of others by showing my faith through actions, not so much by arguing or trying to convince through words. I have found that having a kind and uplifting character does much more than sitting and arguing. When others see our happiness and joy in faith, they begin to wonder what they are missing -- and don't be fooled by a bitter heart. Everyone wants faith, every soul yearns for God's love... even if they can't identify the source of their own longing.

I could sit here and write out a long list of all of the small things I do each day to serve the people around me... I could also sit here and write a long list of all the times I grow impatient or selfish. The bottom line is that, when one believes powerfully in God and shows their faith through compassion and generosity, people congregate around you. People are naturally drawn to you and begin to imitate you. By letting your own light shine, you allow the light in others to shine as well. By believing in God, you give the people around you permission to do the same. By being good, you remind others that we are all, essentially, good.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven." Matthew 5:14-16




Friday, August 12, 2011

Thoughts on Christianity

For most of my life up to this point, I have avoided calling myself Christian. Something about the label always bothered me; I didn't want all the negative stereotypes that apply to "Christian" to also apply to me. Since I was raised by atheists, these stereotypes were very prevalent in my home. Christianity was synonymous with "judgmental, irrational, ignorant, superstitious, and belligerent." I wanted people to see my faith for what it was, something I had experienced in the purity and sincerity of my childhood, not a string of negative connotations that would push them away.

But a part of growing in my faith has been realizing that, as we get older, we need ways of explaining ourselves to others. People as a whole are not that smart or open-minded, and they can only understand faith in terms of what they are familiar with -- in this case, the Bible, Christ, and Christianity. I am understanding now that there are as many different kinds of Christians as there are different kinds of people, and the next challenge for my faith is not to maintain an ambivalent, "in between" belief system where I pick and choose from various traditions. No, the next challenge for my faith is to embrace a tradition and grow from it. Learn from those who have come before me. Get over my pride and submit to the experience and wisdom of hundreds of generations.

And the honest truth is that when I read the teachings of Christ, it all rings true for me. Not everything in the Bible strikes me as being spiritually potent and accurate, but the words of Christ do. The way he explains God matches up exactly with my own experience of faith, and the Spirit that confronted me when I was first saved, before I had ever been introduced to Christianity or anyone's teachings, before I even learned what the Holy Spirit was. God was with me before Christianity, and coming from that perspective, when I first read the teachings of Christ, I felt as though they had already been imprinted on my heart, as though I was reading something that was old news, because my experience of salvation had already imparted those truths in my heart and spirit. 

I still believe that there are many different ways to practice faith in God... and everyone needs to find the way that helps them grow in their relationship to God... but, if all ways are the same Way, then instead of picking and choosing from different doctrines, find one doctrine and stick to it. Following a religion, in this sense, is not really about "being right" or "knowing more"... it is about having a daily practice, something to challenge us to let go of our prior beliefs and seek a new way of life, something that changes us in ways that we need to be changed.

I still like to learn about different religions because it brings me joy to hear about God's ways, but I understand now that I must dedicate myself to only one... otherwise it is very difficult to grow spiritually; it is easy to become overwhelmed or lazy, or to hold back from what one is doing, to stop oneself from fully plunging into the journey. Spirituality and faith, after all, is more about forgetting what you think you know than understanding everything. We will never understand all of the secrets of life. God's secrets are ineffable and found only in the heart, and the heart can be reached through any religion, or no religion at all, as I hope my experiences have shown you. God's truth, however, remains the same and consistent across all teachings.

All truth being the same, choose one doctrine and live by it. I choose Christ. He is my Way.

Friday, August 5, 2011

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
Ephesians 4:29

Messages on 8/5

Today, I was sitting in the courtyard at Cal State Northridge when a very unusual man came up to me. He was African American, perhaps a few years older than me (still young), with three friends in tow. He approached my table and asked, "Can I pray with you?"

It was surprising. I told him, yes, that I was feeling sad and I would like to be prayed over. (I never pass up the opportunity for a prayer.)

Then he told me that he had driven to campus all the way from Long Beach because he felt that there was a need here. He said that he felt that the need was mine.

As he prayed, he said that the Spirit spoke to him. These were the Spirit's words:

1) You are like an Eagle. You sit and observe and see things. I made you far-sighted; you can see a situation from every angle, and which direction certain paths will lead. Seer. Architect. You can see the plans and how they have been set in motion. You see things that not everyone can see. I want you to use this to glorify Me.

2) Trust Me. Trust Me. Have a relationship with Me. Draw closer to Me. Trust Me. Relax. Read my Word that we might have a better conversation.

3) She's still a good friend. Pray for her. (I previously lost a very close friend to a silly argument. He even said her name started with a "K," which was true.)

4) I'm going to show you things I don't show everyone. You are going to see things that not everyone gets to see. I have huge plans for you; you are going to do very important work, touch many people, and work with children. Just follow and trust Me, and Watch Me Move.

5) The Spirit said that I was suffering from blood pressure and back pain. (Both are true.)

6) A financial blessing is coming into your life in the next thirty days. A new job opportunity is on the way that will bless you immensely. Be patient, it is coming.

7) I am showing you how to be patient, how to be a hard worker, how to give glory to Me.

8) You have too many expectations of people. Put your expectations on Me, and watch how I fulfill them.

9) Pray for your father. (When asked for clarification, he said that he had the impression of an older male figure, one who is related to me by family. It was amazing, because on this day I was mourning for my father and feeling very depressed. He had no idea that my father passed.)

I don't know what to make of all of this. The man and his friends stayed at my table for close to an hour. To be honest, though, this is not the first time this has happened to me. I've even had strangers come up to me and ask ME to pray for them. I've had friends send me emails from across the country with similar "messages" that I need to hear. And sometimes, those messages arise from my own writing.

I think, if we walk close enough to God, these things are not unusual. It is all a part of walking in His Kingdom. We are all connected, you see.

And sometimes, I receive messages for other people, too.
He knows us so thoroughly.... It leaves me in endless awe how God fulfills our desires, even the ones we don't realize we have. Perhaps, in some cases, the fulfillment in momentary... a brief relationship or a day that goes much better than planned, a meeting with an old friend, etc... yet still God sees directly at the heart of the matter and brings us each to where we ideally belong.

God has a place for me, for my faith. It is not a place that I can imagine, nor do I think that anyone can imagine their own ideal home in the world, because we are barely acquainted with ourselves. But God knows all things, and if we are patient and follow in His footsteps, abide by His ways, then we reach that ideal place. Through each stage of our lives, even in deep suffering, we are in an ideal place.

Everything is always moving, in the process of becoming something else. I, too, must allow my faith to move and progress. I must allow myself to see God in different ways, so that I might understand to the best of my ability all that my Father is... because He is so many things, all things, and I am only one thing... and He is One in me....

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"When love beckons to you follow him, Though his ways are hard and steep. And when his wings enfold you yield to him, Though the sword hidden among his pinions may wound you. And when he speaks to you believe in him, Though his voice may shatter your dreams as the north wind lays waste the garden. For even as love crowns you so shall he crucify you. Even as he is for your growth so is he for your pruning. Even as he ascends to your height and caresses your tenderest branches that quiver in the sun, So shall he descend to your roots and shake them in their clinging to the earth....

But if in your fear you would seek only love's peace and love's pleasure, Then it is better for you that you cover your nakedness and pass out of love's threshing-floor, Into the seasonless world where you shall laugh, but not all of your laughter, and weep, but not all of your tears. Love gives naught but itself and takes naught but from itself.

Love possesses not nor would it be possessed; For love is sufficient unto love. And think not you can direct the course of love, if it finds you worthy, directs your course. Love has no other desire but to fulfil itself.

But if you love and must needs have desires, let these be your desires: To melt and be like a running brook that sings its melody to the night. To know the pain of too much tenderness. To be wounded by your own understanding of love; And to bleed willingly and joyfully."

-Khalil Gibran (The Prophet)
"Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars."
-Khalil Gibran

Friday, July 29, 2011

I can't stand how judgmental some religious people can be. Just because a person follows a religion doesn't make him or her "a better person." I was raised by the most loving man you could ever imagine; a man who was a widower and sacrificed everything for his kids -- and guess what? He was an atheist. To this day, I still can't find anyone as good and honest as my father. Why would God create something so wonderful and then discard it? And why would God place me in a household of atheists, knowing that I would eventually be His daughter? There is a lesson here; nothing is coincidence.

We shouldn't be so quick to assume that we understand anything about God. I feel like some people cling to the Bible because they don't really think God exists... at least, not beyond a book. A book is something easy to believe in; it's firm, touchable, readable, etc. But God -- God is complicated, invisible, practically undetectable for the average man or woman, in the same way that oxygen and nutrients pass through our body without our conscious knowledge. Who can really believe in something that they haven't seen themselves?

God's realm is the heart and it is through a person's actions that we can determine their closeness to God. Selfless and loving people are better acquainted with the Spirit of God than those who point fingers and judge; no matter what a person professes with their mouth, it is by action that we are saved, by action that we come to know Christ, and essentially it is by actions that we are judged.

Look to a person's actions, and you will see the true quality of their faith.

By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Matthew 7:16-18  

Friday, July 22, 2011

How gentle God is, and how loving, and how forgiving....

and how sheltered He has made me, both hands cupped at my sides

and His feet under mine, holding me up like a child; who can walk on their own?

None of us, certainly. He has brought all things

into my life, new blessings, new worlds, new love

and all things have been kind on my journey.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I believe in a God who does not leave anyone behind. Not even those who want to be left. God does not abandon His children.
It is hard to get anything done on earth if we are afraid of suffering. We must let go of that fear.

It is easy to suffer when we do it for a higher purpose, a higher love.

We reach a point when love and suffering become almost the same thing, because real love craves to be selfless, and selfless acts are always sacrifices, always in the attempt to relieve suffering. So by suffering, we are better able to love, better able to sacrifice ourselves, better able to draw close to God and the Spirit that resides within us.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A thought on gifts....

How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.
1 Corinthians 14:26

 
God has given us all unique talents through which we can understand Him. I am endlessly amazed by the talents of others, both the obvious and the latent. It makes me wonder why God gives us certain lives; why a man with a talent for carpentry might also have an unused penchant for music and art. How a great philosopher might grow up as a cattle shepherd in Africa. So much hidden potential, and God doesn't always choose to use it. We are given things that we don't need, that we never use, simply for the pleasure of having them in us.

Which brings me to a thought on my own talents. As an English major and writer, I look at my own proficiency with language, and I have decided that God's greatest gift to me is not language, necessarily. It is music.

Because God's voice is music, and language must have a rhythm in order to be clearly read and understood. God's voice strikes a note in the body, an ineffable chord, and all I do is take that music and put words to it. My father was a talented pianist with a doctorate in Music Composition from UCLA. My mother, too, was a gifted pianist. My penchant for music has been funneled into a penchant for writing, because when it comes to both life and the arts, rhythm is in everything. This is the gift I can use to glorify and understand God, and God has given it to me to use freely. It is all I can do to try to give it back.

And now a finishing through from Corinthians:

What is the conclusion then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will also pray with the understanding. I will sing with the spirit, and I will also sing with the understanding.
1 Corinthians 14:15

14 The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.
Psalm 118:14


Thursday, July 14, 2011

Happy to be an instrument.

Happy to carry the tune.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Fear and Perfect Love

"Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love." 1 John 4:18

This passage from John has jumped out at me several times this week, so I figured I would write a few thoughts about it. I like this commentary by the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible:

"Fear has no place in love. Bold confidence (1Jo 4:17), based on love, cannot coexist with fear. Love, which, when perfected, gives bold confidence, casts out fear (compare Heb 2:14, 15). The design of Christ's propitiatory death was to deliver from this bondage of fear."

I do feel that since losing my parents and having to rely solely on God to bring blessings and opportunity to my life, that I have found within myself a bold confidence. A certain fearlessness... one might go so far as to call it recklessness... when it comes to taking worldly action. I am not afraid to rely on faith, or to speak out about God. I am not afraid to take chances, to face the unknown, to tread in that horrible borderland where we feel internally and externally out of control, out of place. I know that where I go, faith goes with me, and it's not something that will ever be lost.

I am not immune to all fear, though... for instance, allowing myself to be vulnerable in friendships and relationships is very difficult, and I am, of course, afraid of the pain of a broken heart.... I am afraid of losing people... not to death, but to life; people who come into my life who give me strength, and who then leave, continuing in whatever direction life takes them. It is a terrifying process, learning to stand on our own, with only our hearts as a guide. I am not there yet. But God's faith is a solid foundation and, stone by stone, I am getting stronger. His perfect love is what builds us.

But I wonder, sometimes, if we are ever truly meant to stand alone.... We are made to need each other, to need God. But to what extent? Is that my spiritual goal -- to be strong and whole, but only when I am alone? To be honest, it does not seem like much of a challenge. I think it is easy for us to feel whole when there is no one around to remind us of our shortcomings, our vulnerabilities and insecurities. But that is not true wholeness, something that hides behind walls like a wounded animal.

No, the wholeness I seek is one that includes others. One that will allow me to overcome my insecurities and anti-social tendencies and embrace people for all of their faults and imperfections. I want God's wholeness, God's perfect love, God's patience and acceptance of all things. I want bold confidence in all things, so that I might be a more loving and generous person. How can I share God's love if I am afraid to share myself openly with others? Where do we draw the line between protecting our hearts and offering our hearts as tools of salvation? It is something that time will have to teach me....

I will finish with this thought from St. Augustine:

"As in sewing, we see the thread passed through by the needle. The needle is first pushed in, but the thread cannot be introduced until the needle is brought out. So fear first occupies the mind, but does not remain permanently, because it entered for the purpose of introducing love." 

Monday, July 4, 2011

Progress

There is joy in submission. In fact, the only joy is submission.

True bliss is liberation from self.

You can't destroy your smaller self; you are not fighting a war with some internal apparition. That is for God to do. Life will remove it for you. It is a painful process until it is finished. You must submit to it. Your only duty is to follow where God takes you. Liberation is not a process that can be understood. Only God knows the path that will bring you to that moment... and then the path continues.

__________

What is difficult now will become easy.
What feels unnatural will become your nature.
What is impermanent will be stricken from you.
It is found in simplicity. It is found in humility. Once found, it is never lost.
It is not an idea. It is an experience. It is a part of yourself. Ultimately, it is ineffable.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Confessions III

I sincerely want to live the rest of my life practicing all of God's ways. Christ, I want to be to the world what you were. I want to save them as you saved them.


What is a baptism? It can't possibly be just one isolated event. God's baptism, that of the heart, happens over and over again. It is like walking up a long, slow staircase. Each time we put a foot down, we have a new peace, a new understanding of our place in His work. 


He fills us with what we can carry. He fills us again and again. And the cup deepens.


Some of us wade into the ocean up to our ankles. Some of us wade up to our knees, our waists. God, I want to tread water. Eventually, Christ, I would like to walk as You walked, pace back and forth across the ocean knowing my Father's hands are around me. I will be His adopted child, His smallest flower, His wild thing of faith.


I do not think there is shame in wanting this. I do not think it is blasphemous. I think only God can know my sincerity, and if God planted these desires in my heart, then I only pray that He fulfill them. I do not know what that will mean. I do not know the road. But even if it strips everything from me, as it already has... even if I am brought to my knees again and again, and made to crawl... I will not change my mind. God has graced me with His innocence and insurmountable courage. God has given me His Heart and Armor.

I have seen His mountains, and I will not turn away.
You can't earn God's love. You have nothing that He needs that He hasn't already given to you. Focus instead on giving God's love to those who may not feel it so strongly. Love is what marks a believer. Love is what makes a believer. The Word of God is Love.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

And sometimes, God is a poem....

"-- For I have learned
to look on nature, not as in the hour
Of thoughtless youth; but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue.  And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man:
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things.  Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear -- both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being."

-William Wordsworth, "Lines"

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A walk in the gardens....

Summer has come. I am feeling the thaw.

Every time I have prayed for a man in my life, for someone to love and share my burdens, I received back the answer that "he will choose me." Meaning, he will pick me and pursue me, and I have little control of when or who that will be.

And so, after months and months of desperate longing, I have reached a place of solace, a cottage of sorts, muffled from the world. I am not whole. God knows I will never be... but that is what God wants, and in the sightless way of my own small heart, I have finally stopped looking. I have made peace with loneliness. I have stopped looking for a savior in anyone other than Christ.

I am far from accepting all of the imperfections of the world, but God is showing me how to continue to love the world despite them. Faith is a long journey -- as my 90-year-old grandfather often says, we never stop growing in faith. I am very new to the road.

Did I mention that my Uncle died? My father's only brother, the last of our bloodline. This is God's impeccable timing. We went to Washington to visit my grandparents and I was worried that it would be our last time seeing them, since they are in their 90s, but instead it was my uncle who passed away. We spent the night at his house -- the next day he was gone. His heart stopped with no warning. Despite the shock of the death, I am somehow unsurprised... when I lost my mother at 12, I prayed for God to always give me the chance to say goodbye to those I love. So far that prayer has been answered.

God knows what death is and what it does to us... yet all things that God makes are good, so death must not be such a horrible thing, and the misery it raises in us must be for a higher purpose, something far greater than we can understand. I am as sure of this as I am of my own name. In all the strange contradictions of my person, I, too, am death, and death is alive in me, and we are siblings, he and I.

And finally, finally, I have reached that place of calm summer nights and long sunsets, where I am happy to be alone. Perhaps not always or in every second... God knows we waver as an ocean... but this is a peace I have found deep within myself, and I can return to it as often as I need. God's gardens are a deep walk through the heart. God's happiness is in valuing all things, and most importantly, in seeing what we have... and accepting that it will be taken away....

But what always, always remains is God's magnanimous love, His awe-inspiring presence, His endless grace and the foundations He has laid in my heart. Even in misery, I am in bliss, for I walk with my true Father and the One who will always love me.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Christ....

It can only be the spirit of Christ who has kept me alive this past year.

So many times have dark thoughts passed through me... so many times I have doubted, tossed and turned, thrown God's gifts away and then driven back to recover what was lost.

I do not think anyone will truly understand what happened to me. Losing my father was not the death of a person. It was the death of myself, the death of an entire future that lived inside of me. Even now, my feet often trip over moments and minutes where I am once again lost and collapsing. Everything I ever thought of myself, everything I ever looked forward to, that I ever expected to have, was struck from me in one fell blow. The only thing that was not taken from me was God.

And now that the ocean is calming, that a new season is beginning, I can see exactly the barren landscape that I am leaving behind. I can see the winter that God turned into a garden; the dormant flowers that still found enough Light to bloom. I can see the hopeless, spiraling tunnels where I wandered indefinitely in search of what I had lost, knowing I would never find it again, not in this life and who knows what awaits in Heaven. I have been walking a hellscape with Christ at my side. How do I ever explain to an atheist what faith has done to me? It has built me anew. It has made me more of who I am, and more of what He is, and more of what God wants me to be.

And my longings, my desires, my painful and sacrificial love of God... it is Christ. It is Christ who loves me so much that He gave me some of His grace, some of His magnanimous spirit, to keep me alive. To keep me from descending into a realm where I might have been lost forever. That is where my desires arise from, my longing to serve, my need to submit to God. It does not come from myself. It comes from Christ, who has found space in my heart to live through me -- to save me.

I am finally beginning to understand that Christ never died. He is next to all of us, inside of us, living with us and suffering with us. Christ carried my cross for the past two years and I have been lifted by His unconquerable heart. I have done nothing but cry and complain. I am so weak, so far from what I want to be for God, and yet exactly what God has made. Any beauty that has come out of me these past two years -- beauty in verse, in life, in word and in love -- has come purely from the Spirit of my Lord and Father.

God, thank you for being my family. Thank you for giving me Your Son. Although the tides are changing, I pray only that I may continue to be your daughter, and that wherever these new fields take me, it will always be in greater service to Your Will.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Confessions II

And sometimes, we let people go.


It's always for the best. 


It doesn't always make sense why God brings certain people into our lives, and then ushers them out, as though they were only meant to be displayed for a short while. At times it feels like nails being pried from an old board. We want to grasp others and hold them still... but as St. Therese of Lisieux once said, life is separation, and we must learn to happily let go.

I allow people to effect me. For every person I meet, I watch for God's message, for what God wants me to see. And then, when I have seen what needs to be seen, God has a way of taking people away.


I don't resent God for this. I have left behind many who I felt were impinging my personal growth. But it doesn't stop the decision from hurting, and it doesn't keep us from loneliness. I often wonder if Christ was lonely; I know he must have been, doing all of his work by himself, with all odds against him. 

We outgrow some, while others outgrow us... and yet, there is always a sense of abandonment, a feeling of being left behind, even when it is by choice. I have said my share of harsh words and dealt with situations perhaps in the worst ways... but my goodwill has never left those who I've left behind. My heart does not linger, but is always inviting. Anyone may walk with me -- but walk I must, and it is they who choose not to stay by my side.
Because God reached beyond Himself to show me that I am Loved.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

We are not in a place that we are not meant to be. There is no missed opportunity. I keep saying this to myself because what I have asked from God must be planned perfectly, and it is not something that I can plan or do by myself. I cannot know the future, I can only trust in the present and the path God has placed me on. I see evidence of His design... but I am constantly on the watch for the next step.

God, put a rope on me, close your hands around me, keep me from pushing and shoving my way forward while you are patiently clearing a path. God, stop me from leaping; there is a time for rushing, and there is a time for standing still.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Speaking and Listening

It's hard not to dwell on the things people say.

But the honest truth is that most people don't speak very carefully.  We rarely consider how our words effect others. We rarely consider what our words say about ourselves.

No matter how confident a person seems, their opinion is still just an opinion. You don't have to listen. Just remember -- the voice a person uses to speak with is the same voice they have to live with in their own head. Highly critical people probably suffer from a feeling of personal failure or shortcoming, because their own internal voice won't allow them the sense of personal satisfaction. Likewise, those who speak encouragingly also think encouraging thoughts, and are probably much more forgiving of their own shortcomings.

Those with God in their hearts will speak encouragingly to you. They will consider how their words effect you. They will go beyond themselves to lift you up, to put the right message in your mind to allow you to succeed.

Those who try to tear you down are also tearing down themselves.

Don't dwell too long on the things people say. Instead, seek to develop a forgiving and encouraging inner voice. When your encouragement and forgiveness come from the inside, you stop looking for it from others, and you become that much stronger in faith and in personal character.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Life is full of separation.

Let no one's absence be a cause for suffering. People come and go. Let the happiness in your life come from within you. This way it can never be taken away.

Likewise, let your faith come from within you.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thoughts on Patience

Patience is, of course, a virtue.

I have been dwelling upon it lately. What is patience, and how can patience show us God?

To know God, we give ourselves over to something greater. We take a "leap of faith," we plunge ourselves with total trust into the unknown. We trust something infinitely huge and powerful to take care of us... and yet something that we cannot always see.

To have patience, we must give ourselves over to something greater. When we are tutoring a slow learner, or standing in line at the post office, or stuck in traffic... patience is a form of surrender. It is a sacrifice made to those hours when we are unable to be where we want to be, or do what we want to do. Patience is, in this sense, generosity. Patience is momentary selflessness.

Patience is also peace. It is the ability to be in the moment we are in, to accept where we are and lay to rest our desires, our worries, etc. Peace, also, is surrender. Peace is sacrifice.

And for those who serve God, we are asked for endless patience... patience with a world that perhaps does not understand our vocation at all. Patience with a world that demands when, and what do you want, and how are you going to get there? The world does not always understand a person who wants nothing for himself. The world does not always understand why we wait, why we are content to act beyond ourselves, to give five minutes more of our time, to wait in line with just enough grace to smile. God asks us to be patient. God tells us that perhaps, when we are patient, we stand that much closer to Him.

Friday, May 13, 2011

God, much is changing, and much has changed.

I am concerned about my friends, about those who you have placed in my path. I cannot help but include myself in their trials -- isn't this love? And yet, I do not understand what you make some lives to be. I do not understand the design. It is like staring at a picture, with large spaces and gaps between the paint, attempting to recognize an alien landscape. The spiritual eye is, at times, color blind. I cannot see all of your colors, God -- how can I possibly understand the trials you lay on the ones I love?

And yet my heart, too, is in the mix. Why do you bring me to them, if I cannot help them? I cannot fix the situations they have brought upon themselves, and yet I pray and pray, and lose sleep, and worry until my heart strains and I cannot bear it anymore. Give their trials to me, Lord, and let them walk free. Give me their burdens, because I can suffer for you and retain your love, and they do not have your strength. Please, God, give them mercy. They do not know you... but perhaps, through my love of you, they can see a little of what you are.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

God, why can't I just be thankful?

I am lesser than a blade of grass, because a blade of grass is content to be as you have made it, and I cannot be content in my station. I keep praying and pushing... and when I relax and move with the flow, still I push, because for some of us, we have been waiting already for half of our lives, and we want nothing more than to finally move.

There is a terrible sense of urgency. There is too much that needs to be done. I must remind myself that your pace, at times, is mercifully slow.

Take me there.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The game of life is to change. To change and move and learn to see yourself through a thousand different lenses. By constantly changing, life shows us permanence. It shows us the few things that stay the same.

Perfection is not simple. God is not simple. Love craves to suffer, that it may ever prove itself; death creates beauty; we feel the world through chemicals. Everything we think we know about God is wrong.

In all of my life, this is the only thing that God has proven true: that He is composed of thriving, unconditional love... and that He is always by my side.
Do good deeds, and God will always be in your heart.

Speak kind words, and God will always be in your voice.

Think kind thoughts, and God will always be in your mind.

Be compassionate. Give of yourself without restraint. Always love first.

Friday, April 15, 2011

What We See and What We Think We See

We like to think of life as this:


When really, life is much more like this:


AND we tend to think of GOD like this:


But really, GOD is much more visible as this:




Can you see how different our ideas of God are compared to that which is right in front of us? I think a lot of suffering stems on the insistence of an idea, or clinging too tightly to a concept. We think in linear structures, from point A to point B, in terms of direct cause and effect. We insist on seeing God as someone or something that is linear, human, who thinks the way we do. But God's creations and the events of our lives contradict this in every possible way. Our lives are not a straight path... in fact, they are a wilderness. God is not a man, not anthropomorphic, not hiding in a cloud. He is right in front of you.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

On this Day in Your Life, God wants you to know...

"... that the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang the best. Do not wait; the time will never be 'just right'. Start where you are, work with whatever is at your command, and better tools will be found as you go along."

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


Sometimes I sit outside and I find myself suddenly struck by the now, by the wind through the trees, and there You are, waiting for me, and a peace consumes me like slow quicksand. Suddenly I am sitting on grass, looking in wonder upon every surface, wondering how can it be You -- how can all of this Be You?

And sometimes I forget what You are, and I feel despaired, alone, backed into a corner and turned towards a wall. But I have only to bow my head in worship, honor the Wall, honor the Floor, honor the Pain because even You are Suffering.... 

You promised us nothing, Lord. You are not a joy free from suffering, but a suffering that is full of satisfaction. Being full, though not eating what we wish to eat. Being whole, though not composed of that which we choose.

Pray. Trust. Follow.

Words from Mother Teresa

8/1/64

"Your Lordship,
...

You must have prayed very fervently for me, because it is now about a month that there is in my heart a very deep union with the will of God. I accept not in my feelings, but with my will, the Will of God. I accept His will -- not only for time but for eternity. In my soul -- I can't tell you how dark it is, how painful, how terrible. -- My feelings are so treacherous. I feel like "Refusing God" and yet, the biggest and the hardest to bear -- is this terrible longing for God. Pray for me, that I may not turn a Judas to Jesus in this painful darkness. I was looking forward to speaking to you. I just long to speak -- and this too He seems to have taken the power from me. I will not complain. I accept His Holy Will just as it comes to me. If you have the time please write -- do not mind my inability to speak to you -- for I wanted to speak -- but I could not...."

- Saint Teresa of Calcutta (because, whether the Church deign it or not, she is a Saint.)

Even Mother Teresa despaired. Even her own suffering made her speechless. But she pressed on.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Politics are a power game that man plays with itself. God's only interest is the state of your heart.

Seeds

I am not trying to change anyone's faith. I am simply trying to strengthen the faith that you already have. And where I see no faith, I try to plant a seed. Planting seeds is easy. You do not tell a person you are doing it. You tell them a story, or an event, or something interesting you've read about faith, and then you indirectly relate it to their life.... It works even better if you do not say it directly to them, but let them overhear you in conversation. It is when a person feels the safest that they truly listen. Don't forget that you are speaking to the lost, and that they want to find a way. Everyone wants faith, even if they do not know it.

When they go home, they think about it. They think and think. Because for all that an "unbeliever" might despise God, in times of need, he will think about God the most. Eventually, circumstance will bring the "unbeliever" to a time and place when the seed will burst into bloom, and they will begin their tentative steps toward faith. There are times that I plant a seed or idea, and perhaps months later, I hear it come out of the person's mouth as though it was their very own, and they look so proud of their revelation, and they seem so much happier for it. And I smile and think -- yes, it has begun. Now God can show them the way.
God is a sound that unites everything. It is heard through the body, not by the ears. It feels like all-encompassing love.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Heart and The Armor

God teaches us to be loving and forgiving. God teaches us to be selfless, humble, and sincere. God teaches us to "treat others as we wish to be treated."

But anyone who lives in the real world knows that there are times when sweet-talk just doesn't work. When being the "nice guy" doesn't help anyone. Keeping an open, loving heart doesn't stop us from being trampled by those who are selfish, mean or spiteful. In fact, being a loving child of God is often cause for more pain from shallow insensitivity, more suffering than immediate reward.

Many people who do God's work have very sensitive hearts. They are sensitive to the suffering of others, which is what compels them to act. They are sensitive to the repercussions of harsh words, because often they feel the harshness of others far too keenly. However, something that God has taught me over time is that love does not always mean acquiescing to others. Love does not always mean being the first to cave in a situation. Love does not always mean being a peacemaker.

Let's not forget Christ's words: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Christ came to teach us not only how to resist evil, but how to conquer it. When I first became a believer, I was very worried about what others thought of me. I was worried about offending people, because in my young mind, offending people was the same as hurting people, and hurting people was against God. But now as I grow older, I can see that sometimes you need to offend people. Sometimes, in order to get people to listen, you have to step on a few toes... or kick a few shins... or full-body tackle someone to the ground.

This is where love comes in. Love is not only meant to be an open door into your heart... it is also meant to be the armor that protects you. Let God's love be your armor. When you strike out to do God's work, don't let the rejection of other's hurt you or cause you any doubt. In fact, let the rejection of others bring you joy, because their rejection is a sure sign that you are being heard. The truth of your faith needs to be heard, especially by those who don't want to hear it.

The fear of hurting others can often stop us from doing God's work, when sometimes what someone really needs is a smack upside the head. It is good to avoid being needlessly callous and belligerent... but if you're feeling like the odd-man out, like the crowd has turned against you, like you have an endless amount of adversity with your peers, stand tall and speak louder. If there are people around you who are being needlessly mean and judgmental, who are straying down the wrong path, who are making selfish mistakes in their lives and disregarding your shining example of truth and faith, don't be afraid to shake them up a little. Bringing people back to the right path is not hurting them. Also, denying things to people and breaking promises is a-okay as long as you are doing it to protect them. If you have to make someone shed a few tears in order to straighten out their lives, then do it. More often than not, people will leave fuming, then come back later with an apologetic insight.

Don't strike out at people because you are personally insulted... strike out at people who you see hurting themselves and others. Be a strong voice and a strong role-model. Don't take sh*t from people who claim to care about you but their actions speak differently. God doesn't want you to abuse yourself. God wants your faith to be as straight and true as a sword, so we can pierce through evil and open the hearts of our fellow man.

How open is your heart?

How strong is your armor?

Now strike out boldly, and don't be afraid of adversity -- speak loudly and with truth, and see what God's Word can do.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

To a friend in need...

You are as much My child as Christ. He, too, had to suffer. It is not from Me, but from the silenced and shrouded hearts of Man that evil arises. You are My only resistance, and My gratitude is endless. I will repay your work in endless ways -- but never in ways that will take you from your work.

You may try to be strong... but even at your strongest, you are infinitely fragile to Me. I did not make you to be powerful, but to be weak. It is your nature. Do not despise it. Your strength and only strength lies in surrender.



Because you let me, I will always protect you.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The Send - "Need"



Don't mind the corny intro....

This song amazes me. Taken in a spiritual context, it completely sums up a believer's relationship with God.

"Take my heart and lose myself,
I'll lose it all for you....

Oh, I could never know who I really am
without you...."
Let's just shout it out... God is the love of my life! I have no other name for my faith but faith, and despite all of the books I read, the Churches I attend of the philosophies I study, my faith will always remain faith, and my love of God will always stem from pure, sublime experience. The Bible is a wonderful book... but even if the Bible had never existed, here I would be, and my faith would be the same, and my love for you would be the same, and my partnership with God would remain the same. My faith is not built on a book or a congregation; it is built on life. God is my life. When in loneliness or doubt, it is to His undefinable presence that I turn, and it has always been that way, before I even understood what religion was.  Before I even understood the legacy of saints, bodhisattvas, prophets, and miracle workers who have walked the earth, I prayed in the silence of my childhood to give God's unconditional love to the world.

There need to be more voices in the world that show a powerful alliance to love.

There need to be more strong hands to do the lifting.

There need to be more people willing to allow others to be who they are, to breathe a sigh of relief, to show them that God made them this way because nothing is a mistake, and what keeps us from God are not His labels or His laws, but rather, man's labels and man's laws. We are the cause of suffering. We are evil transitioning into love. We are unconscious rocks, and when we awaken to God's presence in the world, only then may we call ourselves Human. Only then do we become the divine whole.

And our spiritual growth, our journey into the divine, never, ever ends.

"The feeling remains that God is on the journey too." -St. Teresa of Avila

Friday, April 1, 2011

I believe in a God who wants us to be happy with ourselves. A God that never abandons us, no matter how many times we abandon Him. I believe in a God who, even more than speaking to us, wants to be with us.

I believe that sometimes that means we need to change parts of ourselves to become better; we need to let old pieces go, and allow new pieces to grow in their place. I think that drugs, alcohol abuse, and self-destructive behavior gets in the way of that. I believe that faith allows us to grow past our vices and heal. I think that believing in a destination allows us to have a destination. I also don't think there is any weakness is being optimistic, idealistic, or kind. Faith is not about what reality is. It's about what our internal reality is.

I believe that no answers are simple, and yet spiritual Truth is so simple as to be ineffable. I think that we get hung-up looking for answers that we want to understand. The reason why we can't understand the events of our lives is because we do not know the many outcomes of the future. We do not know when we will die; when we will contract a terminal illness; what another road may have led to. But we can trust God to know. We can trust God to lead us to a safe haven. Just because there are periods of suspension does not mean we will never be able to put our feet firmly on the ground. Sometimes we are suspended for years, with no illusion of certainty or safety, and we wonder -- why has God not saved me yet? Why have I not been brought to solid ground? I think in these moments, there is a lesson in having to wait. We become strong. And then, we become weak. We rebel and submit, rebel and submit. Until finally, we lose the will to fight, and we simply accept what is. Faith is not a destination. It is a vessel in which to travel; a mode of transportation; a way of thinking.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

SpiritWorks Center for Spiritual Living

Went today to a Church called SpiritWorks: Center for Spiritual Living. It is a Church dedicated to New Age ideals... or, as their Reverend was quick to correct me, "New Thought."

I felt that the energy of the congregation was warm and welcoming. There was certainly a lot of happiness being passed around. The people were good and the Reverend spoke with a good deal of passion. I can see that this is a Church family of people looking for a chance to connect with God in a more "spiritually logical" way....

However, there is something about the New Age movement that strikes me as a tree without roots. A structure on a faulty foundation. The Reverend quoted from many sources, including one quote from the Bible taken completely out of context, and several other quotes from "spiritual" books written by "practitioners," namely Science of Mind by Ernest Holmes. I cornered the Reverend after his service and asked what exact philosophy his Church is drawing from. He seemed confused by the question. I stated that there appears to be a large mix of Buddhist philosophy and Judeo-Christian terminology (such as Spirit, Soul, and God.) At this point, he said that he draws most of his sermons from the book by Ernest Holmes.

My question is really this -- if you are teaching a congregation about spiritual Enlightenment, are you Enlightened yourself? And if you are not Enlightened yourself, then are you teaching from the words of someone who is? Anyone who has read a religious text can rephrase it, teach it, and call themselves Enlightened or "Awakened to the Spirit" or whatever correlating term there is. That does not mean they really areGod and unity is more than a concept -- it is an experience, and to call people "spiritual masters" simply for understanding an idea is extremely misleading. The blind cannot lead the blind. To practice a true spiritual path that will lead to any sort of real, permanent awakening, one needs a teacher who has reached that level of Enlightenment. The inability of the Science of Mind organizations to unify themselves into a singular structure is already a sign that their leadership is divided, meaning, not unified... meaning, ultimately, that nothing is unified in their hearts... and as we all should know, Enlightenment is the internal experience of unity, of the interconnectedness of all things.

I understand that certain people are drawn to the New Age movement because it appears on the surface to "make more sense" than older religions. A lot of people are tired of feeling "guilty" or fearing "God's punishment" so are seeking another way to connect to God. But really, if you are going to attempt to spiritually awaken yourself, you should follow the path of someone who has actually reached Enlightenment... like, say, the Buddha, or arguably Christ. All that I heard in today's sermon was a bunch of New Age terms such as "god self" and "synergy" pasted over what was really a dim shadow of Eastern philosophy, misinterpreted and misrepresented to a congregation of innocent people in search of spiritual truth.

There is no spiritual truth to be found in the New Age. Not until we have a new prophet, a new Buddha, a new Teacher who has achieved a true union with God, a true realization of the higher Self. Until then, there will be no Enlightenment from the New Age... only people squinting to see auras and attempting to feel their "chakra energy." Do some research before you decide to throw your heart into something. Don't be fooled by pseudo-logical terms and explanations. God ultimately defies logic... and the path to Enlightenment has nothing to do with definitions and mind tricks and everything to do with acts of compassion. For every hour you give in Church, give two hours to the homeless, two hours to the sick, two hours to those who are abandoned and broken... this is the path to Enlightenment.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Confessions I

And when I have had my fill....

When I am exhausted and drained at the end of the day, and I reach home, and everything seems empty... because my days are full of rush and responsibility, fragile conversation and my mind distracted in prayer, the heart burdened by a thousand worries, unknowns, nameless fear and illusory danger.... I am not immune to worry, to uncertainty, to the fear of being abandoned....

And at the end of the day, when the panic is over and I come back to this house that is not yet my house, and not my father's house, and no one's home but that of my old self, that other life which has left me....

When I come home, and I am somewhere in between, walking interstitial halls....

I, too, touch my forehead to the floor and beg for release, beg for God to take me away, to save me, to stop this horrible lingering depression, the ache in my chest that is the absence of you, the hole left where your love filled me, drained as your life has been drained, taken to some Heavenly field far from my reach.... Even in dreams, you are not the same....

Even I cry out, even I cling tightly to the walls, knowing that He is the wall, and He is the floor, and He is each groan of my heart begging for mercy, for relief, for resolution to what is an endless tunnel, a darkness undefinable, where not even hope is a lantern for there is nothing to hope for, only Our plan, Our tasks that I pray will be enough, enough to make a life worth living, enough to make my suffering an offering, a sacrifice, my self to a greater Self, a greater Good, a higher House in Your Name....

I break apart in these halls... over and over again, I die here and am reborn... here, in my Father's house, where He is always listening, where He is always building, always healing, always promising and always whispering of love.... This home that is not yet my home, and yet has always been Home, is the place where I seek His shelter and where I pretend, in the dim light of a midnight room, that He sleeps next to me, His Heart pressed in mine, and where death resides He breathes life, He breathes tomorrow, tomorrow, always tomorrow, again tomorrow we shall die together, and I am Still Here....

In response to my "Religion in Literature" class...

How do you think this book, The World is Made of Stories by David R. Loy, helps you fathom the relationship between "religion" and "literature" and between the stories we hear and the ones we live?

When reading The World is Made of Stories, I couldn't help but think that all literature is written on moral premise, and therefore, religious premise. We are inherently religious creatures, as moral and ethical ideology spills into almost every facet of our existence (and every facet of our existence, according to this book, is a story.) The stories we live by are moral stories, ethical stories, questions of "Why do bad things happen to good people?" and "Why am I suffering? Do I deserve to? What is the meaning of my life?" In this sense, the stories of others help to shape our own story; the stories we are told growing up are what create the stories of our lives, our relationships, what we value and what we expect to achieve. Likewise, the stories we read in books as adults or as children can also change our experience of reality, the "story of our life."

It would appear that we are all spiritual beings searching for a spiritual realm of truth; an understanding within ourselves, a liberation from the stories that tie us to our roles and to the identities of others. Literature reflects this, as most literature is an exploration of the human experience, questioning the purpose of our lives, the way we effect others and history, and the collective truths that transcend history. Literature draws attention to the less apparent stories that dictate our lives, allowing us to view these stories at a certain distance so we can analyze them. However, the stories that we live by every day are invisible to us, a clear lens that we see through without realizing its own color or texture. Much of literature reflects history, and history itself is a story. Rewrite the story, rewrite history, rewrite literature, rewrite the lens, rewrite the self....

But what of the self outside the story? If our experience of the world is our own narrative, and we can change those narratives by changing our ideology and values, then what remains cohesive and constant? This is where questions of nothingness and Nirvana enter the picture (nothingness and Nirvana being, of course, another story.) As The World is Made of Stories says, "For identity to change, there must be something other than that narrative, something that is not bound by it."

After reading the text, I agree with the premise that we are coauthors of our lives, with the ability to direct our own stories, at least to a certain extent. However, I believe this only happens after Nirvana, after an essential realization of the permanent self. Nirvana is an inherent "knowing" of reality and an interconnectedness with the true Author, the Self that is in all things, and the transient emptiness of all things in relation to that Self. Perhaps Nirvana is our own innate ability to create of ourselves the perfect story, one that we can predict, which we feel is already written because we are instinctively awakened to the causality in all things. One doesn't need to understand the rings in a pond when one has become the rings in the pond.

I always feel that there is too much emphasis on emptiness and nothingness in many discussions on Nirvana... it is not that Nirvana is "empty" or "nothing," but rather, that all other things become "empty" and "nothing" in relation to it. "It is not understood by those who understand It. It is understood by those who understand It not." (Upanishads) This is the difference between concept and experience. You can describe bondage, but one does not consciously experience one's own bondage when one has only ever been bound. In the same way, one can conceptualize liberation until one is liberated, when it becomes a state of being, and then all description and explanation becomes meaningless. You can only know freedom; you can only live freedom; you cannot draw it or set rules to it or describe it to others.

As Nirvana is an ineffable experience, can that experience be "Storied"? Not the results of the experience, or the path leading to it, but the experience in and of itself, one that is self contained, yet transcends all causal reality. Is Nirvana therefore the Self that is beyond narrative? Is Nirvana the Self that began all narrative? Or is Nirvana the ability to see all life as narrative, and to detach from it, observing all things with an impartial eye? These questions are largely unanswerable, but I would like to write into my own life's narrative that yes, Nirvana is the Author beyond the story, which writes the story according to the events prescribed in our hearts, which, given an honest understanding of our Selves, allow us to know the reason for our lives, our own significance, and our own fragile transience. In this sense, literature and Nirvana serve the same purpose: to allow us the impartiality to examine our own narratives and perhaps coauthor new ones.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

music

My strength and my armor, my sword, my steel, my righteous storm; my soldier, conqueror, healer, mover, leader; my plan, my mountain, my highest peak and weakest bone, my water and bread, my breath, secrets and solitude, hidden groves, shady trees and cool depths; the water than runs, that climbs, that laughs through fields of cattails and fawns; the air that sinks, the clouds that lift, the fire that rises in the East, which sleeps in the West, which moves and dreams and speaks as dust -- What is your temper? Your tremors, your precious grains, pebbles, inescapable weather, undeniable currents, unrivaled need and the heart always aflame....

Don't you ever let go....

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

We are so small, and we think we are so significant! Love God. Strive to be simple. Enjoy being a part of it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Far be it from me to take your truth from you....

I would consider myself a terrible failure if these writings made even one person doubt their faith. Rather, I would hope that these pages might affirm your truth, no matter where it stems from. I would hope that instead of seeing obstacles, you might find a plethora of light buried in these words, a wide spectrum of love. I would ask that you do not look at the differences between us. Differences are what God made, because God loves to make many countless things. Instead, I would ask you to find what is common; what is permanent between both of us, both of our beliefs, both of our hearts.

If we wanted to unite the world, we could do so right now. Unity has nothing to do with a singular ideology. Unity is in consciousness, in mutual understanding, in reciprocity and respect. If we wanted unity in the world, which some of us very badly do, then the mighty must consent to come down to the weak; the prosperous must bow their heads to the less fortunate; the healers must go out and heal the suffering. Likewise, the weak must not despise the brave; the less fortunate must accept the help of the prosperous; those who are suffering must not blame the healers. We must consent to need each other. We must live beyond ourselves.

It has only ever been the minority who has sacrificed for the greater good. Imagine if it was the majority who moved with a great rush towards love, towards magnanimous action, towards unrivaled generosity. Imagine a world consumed by a love-madness, where all people have a hand to hold, a light to turn on and off, warmth, satisfaction, security. These are things we can give.

I do not know if I will ever be able to give to the world what my heart desires. I do not know if it is by my own limitations, or by God's plan, that I am trapped in my station in life. Perhaps that is my final sacrifice... to let it go, to overcome it. I am far from perfect, I am far from being what God calls me to be....

But I would promise you that a world united is already a reality in my heart: all people, all creeds, all truth. I love all stories of faith, all sacrifice, all meditations and all philosophies, even those that refute God. What is true is true. Ideas are not true. Life is true. Here is true. Now is true.

So when you read these letters... these thoughts, these pages, these murmurs of love... I only ask you to see what is true. I only ask you to see it within me, and to see it within yourself. It is you, dear reader, who is the greatest truth in me, because in you I see a united world; in you I see our greater Self, the most beautiful seed of creation, our loving God and the purpose of my life. I am alive that I might die for you. We are all on a glorious walk into death, into love, into new life... and I would love for you to walk with me....

God's Secrets

People guard secrets. People covet what they have, what they've "earned," what they think they own, what they think is owed to them. People resist sharing in the smallest, most petty ways.

But God doesn't resist. God doesn't want to hide. It is we who hide from God. We are the ones who refuse to listen, who refuse to share our lives with God, our troubles, our worries, or even more importantly, the gifts and abundance God has given us. We have been called on to share, to lift each other up; if you haven't noticed, we were designed this way. No one person can do all things; we have weaknesses, limitations, gaps in our knowledge and understanding. Children need parents. Man needs woman. Mankind, in turn, needs God.

When seeking God's secrets, there is no great need to travel. If you cannot find God in your bedroom, then you will not find Him in Africa, in Europe, over seas or under the earth, or even on the moon. If you cannot see God in yourself, you will not see Him in the world. Do not be consumed by illusions that we create for ourselves, "pretending" to see God in things, forcing ourselves to "know" unity, grabbing onto the concept and beating it into ourselves until we think it is permanent. No idea is permanent. God's secrets are revealed by a union with the Spirit, and this can only be found through prayer, through asking, through a sudden leap of revelation and an awakening of the heart.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Put the tools in my hand, and I will do the work.

God says, First do the work... then I will craft your tools, make your keys, and even give you a door to open.

Romantic Love

Oh believe me, I would grab onto worldly love if I could get my hands on it....

If I could find myself a partner, a mate, a man I could love that somehow echoed the love of the Father, then maybe I wouldn't strive so hard after my own faith. But honestly, when I think of God's purpose for my life and what kind of partner would fit into that picture, I figure it is only someone that God can bring me.

Love is a wonderful distraction. As women, I think we tend to pour all of ourselves into it; culturally, it's what we've been conditioned to do our entire lives. But a large part of these past few years of growth has been the realization of that cultural myth; maybe getting married and having tons of kids isn't what God has planned. Maybe it has nothing to do with it. Maybe there is a reason why so many people like Mother Teresa served God without having a partner in their lives. Am I ready to sacrifice a future family to be a part of God's family?

When thinking these things, I stop to check myself. I don't know anything about the future, and it's senseless to entertain dark thoughts. If I am sacrificing anything for God, it is my whole self, and God will take me exactly to what my heart desires... and what my true heart desires is not worldly love. That is what my "heart of the moment" desires. What my true heart desires... well... to save the world, of course....

God knows everything about our futures. Perhaps I won't live for another three years. Perhaps I will never live to see the effects of my life in the lives of others, or the truth of my faith in the faith of others... God will show me how to wisely use the life I have. I only need to follow.

Following has always been easy.

Please, God. Please take me there.